The term "aflatoxin" is derived from the name of one of the molds that produce it, Aspergillus flavus. Aflatoxins form one of the major
groupings of mycotoxins.
Aflatoxins are poisonous and cancer-causing chemicals that are produced by certain molds (Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus)
which grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains.
They are regularly found in improperly stored staple commodities such as cassava, chili peppers, corn, cotton seed, millet, peanuts, rice,
sorghum, sunflower seeds, tree nuts, wheat, and a variety of spices.
When contaminated food is processed, aflatoxins enter the general food supply where they have been found in both pet and human
foods, as well as in feedstocks for agricultural animals.
Animals fed contaminated food can pass aflatoxin transformation products into eggs, milk products, and meat.
Children are particularly affected by aflatoxin exposure, which leads to stunted growth, delayed development, liver damage, and
liver cancer. Adults have a higher tolerance to exposure, but are also at risk. No animal species is immune.
Aflatoxins are among the most carcinogenic substances known.
Aflatoxins are most commonly ingested, but the most toxic type of aflatoxin, B1, can permeate through the skin.